Sport has always been known to mirror the society we live in. And now, in the time of Covid-19, it reflects the new reality too. In restarting the Bundesliga and kicking off games over the weekend, the German soccer league took a brave early step into the unknown to sample the new normal, or the new abnormal. The beaches of US and Europe opened just as amusement parks in China welcomed customers. Germany may take pride in its robust handling of the pandemic and its readiness to take life towards normality. Even so, it was valiant of soccer to write quickly a new behaviour code and venture to step out into competitive sport so soon.
Soccer players wore protective suits on the bus to the stadium, substitutes had masks on in dugouts and only elbow or fist bumps were allowed. There was exemplary social distancing at the corner flag in celebrating the first goal by Norwegian striker Erling Braut Haaland for Dortmund. The sights and sounds of contact sport, reverberating in the somewhat eerie atmosphere of empty stands that seated 80,000+plus in the pre-covid era just 10 weeks ago, are to be interpreted as man learning to get on with life in the face of the virus threat.
Bundesliga has shown the way and La Liga and EPL can’t be far away as they stand to lose millions of pounds if the season doesn’t resume. India may be a few weeks behind Europe in fighting the Covid curve but its IPL will be the biggest loser as about Rs 3,900 crores hang in the balance if they don’t swing into action, with empty stands if need be.
In-arena spectators are no more the lifeline of sport, which these days television audiences with their purchasing power are. It makes sense to put on live sport for the edification and entertainment of billions seared by the lockdown. Furthermore, the essence of sport is to stand up to challenges just as sporting aspiration exemplifies mankind’s indomitable spirit.